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Bulldogs go through first spring practice of 2019

MSU returns to practice on Thursday.

Posted: Mar 5, 2019 10:51 PM

STARKVILLE, Miss. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) – Football returned on Tuesday as head coach Joe Moorhead and the Mississippi State Bulldogs opened spring practice in Starkville. The second-year head coach put his squad through the first of 15 workouts this spring in a little more than two hours.

Following practice, Moorhead met with the media to recap Day 1. Quotes from the media session are below.

State will next practice on Thursday afternoon at the Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex. Practice is closed to the public.

Head Coach Joe Moorhead

March 5, 2019

Opening Statement …

“It’s great to be back out on the field. This is one of my favorite times of the year, spring ball. We don’t have the pressure or urgency of preparing for an opponent. We can really focus on fundamentals, technique and teaching, reinstalling our scheme and the little things. I thought it was a good Day 1. I think our strength and conditioning staff did an excellent job where guys came out and were flying around. We’ve spent an entire offseason looking at the things we did in all three phases, looking to improve on the things we did well and correct the things we didn’t do so well. That was reflective in our installation. We didn’t put too much in today, we wanted to take a very judicious approach. I thought the kids did a good job. We’re looking to build off all of the positives and the good things that we did in the 2018 season. Not to go for a full-fledged review, but two top 25 wins, an Egg Bowl win, eight wins, a New Year's Day bowl game. I’m an eternal optimist, I want to look for the solution to every problem. I think that there are a ton of positives to build on and I think our kids feel that and feed off of that. We graduated a lot of production and a lot of personality. One of our things is that we have to have great leadership, great unity, and great chemistry to make up for that. The naysayers, hand-ringers, the pessimists, and the people who see a problem in every solution, the people find fault in everything, but I’m not going to live my life that way. [A lot of] the people that I talk to are excited about the trajectory of this program as our kids are and our coaches. I think our new guys hit the ground running from a coach and staff perspective. They bring a lot of energy, a lot of excitement, and a lot of expertise so it was great to see those guys. I thought Day 1 was very much a success.”

On how this spring’s practices were scheduled …

“It was really just where Super Bulldog Weekend fell. Once that is set, you kind of have to count back from there. You can’t just squeeze in 15 [practices] if we started after spring break so we decided to get the two helmets only knocked out. We’ll come back, when they come off spring break, we will have a team meeting Sunday night. We would normally have a practice that Tuesday, but I want to give the guys three days with the strength and conditioning staff to get their legs back underneath of them. We will go Thursday and Saturday, then continue to go Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.”

On getting the new assistants coaches up to speed …

“How many hours are in a day? No, that’s been a big part of it. Certainly, we’ve had an NCAA-regulated amount of time that we’re allowed to be around the guys with meetings and things of that nature. So, I think it’s good just to get our coaches familiar with our kids and get them to know each other. With the amount of turnover that we had, I think losing five full-time assistants and our strength coach – in a sped up amount of time prior to our first practice – I think it was another week or two that we had to get the playbook ready, that was sped up a little bit. So, every hour that we’re not in the office and not working on recruitment, we were working on spring ball installation.”

On injury updates …

“Ani [Izuchukwu] is a guy that has some things that we need to clean up from high school. He’s probably going to be out for the extent of the spring. The other guys are just minor bumps and bruises. I think that at this time of the year we need to take the cautious approach, you don’t want to jump them in there too early and something else happens because you only get 15 opportunities. Hopefully the yellows [jerseys] turn into Maroon and White quickly.”

On the quarterback position …

“I said in our team meeting today that depth charts are written in pencil, not pen for a reason. Certainly, KT [Keytaon Thompson] is the incumbent. He is the returner with the most experience and has played in games so he is in the catbird seat. But, Jalen [Mayden] and Garrett [Shrader] are going to get those opportunities to compete and we will go through 15 practices and see where we are. After Day 1, I was pleased with their retention and execution today.”

On replacing four starters on the defensive line …

“Yeah, we tried to petition for a sixth year for all of those guys, that didn’t work out too well. But no, I think like anything, when you lose the caliber of players that we did, not just at D-line but across the board, you talk about reloading and not rebuilding. I think as far as our defensive ends, we have guys who have played a bunch of football and have the mindset of playing a lot of rotational football, particularly our D-line. Kendell [Jones] and Lee [Autry] are guys that are older and we have a bunch of good, young guys that we redshirted, who are going to have to grow up quickly.”

On offensive line combinations …

“We’re trying a bunch of different combinations, ultimately in an effort to find the best five. We’ve slid Darryl [Williams] into center, he’s working there. We’ve moved Stew [Stewart Reese] into guard, he’s working at both guard and center. Tommy [Champion] is versatile so he can do both. We moved [Greg] Eiland over to right tackle. Tyre [Phillips] and Tommy [Champion] are going to get left [tackle]. The move of Darryl [Williams] to center has allowed us to have some more positional flexibility. That is something that I think Coach [Marcus] Johnson does a very good job of, is working those guys all-around. So in a pinch, you’re not stuck with playing who the back-up is of that position.”

On how the players have received the energy of the new assistant coaches …

“We’re going to have to ring out Coach [Chris] Marve’s sweatshirt. I’ve never seen a guy sweat like that. I would have thought he was in on the drills. Once again, sometimes change is difficult and sometimes change is needed. I think like anything, they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. I think Coach [Tony] Hughes, Coach [Michael] Johnson, Coach [Terry] Richardson, and Coach Marve are guys who have established relationships with our guys prior to being in a meeting room or getting on the field, and I think that they do bring an abundance of energy to the field.”

On the phrase “One at a time” …

“I came in talking about a championship standard. Like I’ve said, if I had to do it over again, I would do the exact same thing because I wasn’t brought here to lower expectations or manage expectations. I was brought here to elevate expectations. Whether or not people felt those were met this year, is their prerogative. But I know, a solid foundation was built. But, I do think we have to be a bit more myopic and focused on “one at a time.” We can’t be looking too far down the road with the amount of production and personnel we have to replace. We need to focus on one meeting, one drill, one period, one day, one practice, and keep stacking those on top of each other. It doesn’t mean we aren’t working to win a championship, which is going to be our ultimate goal every year. With this team building its identity and gaining confidence, we need to be a little more short sided in our immediate approach but still have long-term goals.”

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